Friday, August 12, 2016


The cover of THE GINGERBREAD SHOP A STORY FROM "MARY POPPINS," copyright 1952 by Simon and Schuster, Inc., and Artists and Writers Guild, Inc.

This 1952 Golden Book, based on a chapter of the MARY POPPINS book by P.L. Travers, caught my eye at the Arundel, ME flea market a couple of weeks ago. I actually looked thru the book, then put it down and walked away. I went to the opposite end of the market, and had second thoughts and came back to buy it.

The pictures by Gertrude Elliott were like something I had never seen in a mainstream kiddie book. They were well drawn, with a great sense of perspective and proportion and layout. But they weren't cute. No cute bunnies or rosy cheeked cherubs. And, looking at it, most of the time, I wanted to peek around the page because the characters of Mary, Michael and Jane were looking away from me, in three-quarters view.

I mean, look at the cover. Mary Poppins is almost completely turned away from us. She's striding so fast into the title shop that she's about to run into Jane Banks. And Michael is looking up, questioningly. Well, if the little dude has a question for her, he better pick up the pace. Another moment and Mary Poppins won't be on the cover of the book she's walking so fast.

So, here she is, looking up and away. We see more of her jawline than the front of her face. We never see her straight on, looking at the audience, in any of the drawings. And Gertrude Elliott decided to do this to help make Mary Poppins more mysterious. This is what registered and this is why I walked back from the other side of the flea market.

There is little about the life of Gertrude Elliott on the web. She was a prolific illustrator of kids books, with many of them commanding high prices today.

The most about her I was able to find was this small bio in THE GINGERBREAD SHOP:

Gertrude Elliott illustrated one of the most popular of modern children's books, The Golden Dictionary, as well as The Golden Song Book, The Golden Book of Poetry, and eight Little Golden books. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter. 

1 comment:

Brian Fies said...

I don't have much to add, but great post, Mike! I don't know Gertrude Elliott's work but like it. Stylistically, it feels older than the 1950s to me; there's a little Winsor McCay in her line. I like that the world she draws is kind of grungy, dirty splatters on the wall. Good find!